Even occasional readers of the blog know I love wine, touring related to wine, tasting wine, and talking about wine. When summer arrives, my thoughts turn to leisurely evenings with friends, sipping a light, bright wine on a patio under the setting sun. Summer and wine tours go together as well as summer and wine. As the finishing touch to a marvelous week in Barcelona, I took a trip out to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia to taste and tour some lovely cava (Catalan sparkling wine) at Freixenet.
I picked up very little Catalan during my stay, but found “Freixenet” to be a perfectly Catalan word. In Canada, we’re inclined to pronounce it “free-zhuh-nay,” since we like to French-it-up when the opportunity presents itself. The Catalan pronunciation is closer to “fresh-en-et.” I assure you, I’ve been positively insufferable about it ever since.
Transportation: take the train to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia!
Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is approximately 30 minutes from Barcelona on the R4 commuter train (Rodalies Barcelona). It’s an easy trip, very inexpensive, and the winery is next door to the train station – you see it when the train pulls into the station. A return ticket between Barcelona-Plaça de Catalunya and Sant Sadurní d’Anoia was €6,30 at the time (€8,20 as of August 2015).
Cava tour basics
Compared to the €17 I paid in Reims, France for a one-hour champagne tour, a 90-minute cava tour at Freixenet was a steal at €6,10 (€7,50 as of August 2015). English tours are available, and tours must be booked in advance. My guide spoke excellent English, and provided a warm welcome before a short video about the history of the company, its present day approach to cava, and some pretty awesome advertising that looked very disco, but could easily have been “generically European.”
“Cava” is the Catalan and Spanish word for “cave” and we headed approximately 20 metres underground to explore Freixenet’s oldest caves from the 1920s.
Proper cava is prepared in the champagne style using grapes with lovely Catalan names: macabeu, parellada, and xarel·lo. This is not essential information, but I wanted the opportunity to explain my one piece of useful Catalan language knowledge. When you see a word like “xarel·lo” the Ls are pronounced like “parallel” in English.
In the cellar
We covered the fundamentals of cava production, learned about primary and secondary fermentation, and how to make an exquisite sparkling drink.
Then, we went to look at some very, very old bottles of cava, including the special “royal reserve.” There was a pretty decent stash from the 1940s, with tons of dust and cobwebs to prove their lengthy residence in the caves.
All aboard the cava train
The tour moves from the cellars to the modern production, warehouse, and distribution facility. For safety’s sake, visitors are driven around on a cava train. It’s more of a truck-train, but awfully fun nonetheless. In the new section, racks of cava are at least 10 metres high, and every so often, there’s an empty space where a bottle has exploded under pressure.
A sparkling reward
At the end of the tour, you are rewarded with an ice cold glass of cava, which is enjoyed in the tasting room, overlooking the surrounding mountains. Then, visitors are unleashed on the rather impressive gift shop, which had ridiculously affordable bottles of wine (starting at €3) and lots of merchandise, including Freixenet’s signature poster of a child carrying a bottle of cava.
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